We hear the catch phrase “Unconscious Bias” but what does it really mean and why does it matter?
According to Catalyst in Canada, unconscious bias is a way we categorize information. We quickly assess people, places, and situations so that we can make decisions.
The fact that we engage in unconscious bias doesn’t make us bad people. Juneja & Lau (2019) state that it simply makes us human.
Even so, unconscious bias can be problematic in that many of these biases are often based on our own assumptions or incomplete information. Even more are clouded by our own experiences.
Someone or something reminds of us an earlier experience, often negative, and without even realizing it, we clump all others into that category. Thoughts like these bubble up all the time, we’re just not aware of the impact they have on our decision-making or how we interact with the people around us.
Think about the dozens of decisions you’re making each day. Whom to hire, promote, or fire? What colleagues to trust? Is this client worthy of our time and energy?
All of these types of decisions cost you dollars and cents. Make enough wrong decisions, and your business is in trouble.
The question then becomes, how does one go about making unconscious biases conscious?
I typically have my coaching clients start by noticing some element of their daily interactions. Who is a source of stress and why? What thoughts or feelings rise up for you when you encounter this type of scenario? What decisions do you make based on your responses?
Other big questions: what do you believe about people who think or behave this way? How much of what you believe is grounded in fact? How much in your own assumptions? If you put yourself in this person’s shoes, what do you suppose they’re thinking about you?
I find that when they journal responses to these types of self-observation questions, they typically uncover unconscious biases that often equate to poor choices.
Once they have this level of awareness, they most often shift how they think and behave moving forward.
Questions like these aren’t the end all, but I find that developing some level of awareness helps my clients narrow down the types of scenarios which stir up unconscious biases.
It’s all about bringing the unconscious to the conscious so that we can learn more about ourselves in relation to the world around us.
Peace of mind. Less stress. More empathy and tolerance for others. Better hiring practices. Clearer decisions.
All of which equate to an increased bottom-line.
Don’t believe me?
Try journaling responses to the questions above and see what comes up. I’ll bet you’ll see a direct correlation to how your time, money, and energy is directly related to unconscious biases in one form or another.
Juneja & Lau (2019), Unconscious Bias: From Awareness to Action, EdX.Org